In an era that is increasingly technologically based, the ability to use computers and to evaluate electronic information is fundamental. Whether one presents laboratory research with PowerPoint software; designs robotic production systems; prepares a detailed budget for an employer with a spreadsheet program; or simply buys an airline ticket or schedules an appointment through the Internet -- computer technology permeates most aspects of our lives.
As industries evolve and increase their reliance upon computer technology, the demand for computer literate individuals will only grow. This report addresses the question, “Are UC Davis graduates equipped with the computer skills needed to excel in a technological era?” In other words, has UC Davis successfully met the educational needs and goals of undergraduate students in this fundamental area?
As outcomes and opinions of recent alumni can provide answers to these types of questions, Student Affairs Research & Information (SARI) regularly conducts surveys of recent baccalaureate degree recipients. This paper uses responses to the Survey of June 1999 Baccalaureate Degree Recipients to highlight both the current use of computer technology by UC graduates and their recollection of computer use while attending as an undergraduate at Davis. It addresses their preparation in the area of information technology and reports on how frequently specific computer applications were used during their undergraduate careers.
IMPORTANCE OF COMPUTER SKILLS TO CURRENT ACTIVITIES There has been a steady increase
over time in the importance that alumni ascribe to computer skills. In 1990, 86% of the alumni indicated that computers skills were very important or somewhat important to their current activities. Nearly a decade later, almost all respondents (94%) to the Survey of June 1999 Baccalaureate Degree Recipients note the importance of these skills to their current activities. It is particularly
important to note that the 40% 60% 80% 100%
Very Important Somewhat Important Not Important Does not apply Figure 1: Importance of Computer Skills
to Current Activities : 1990 - 1999
UC Davis Graduates
Survey of June 1999
Baccalaureate Degree Recipients
By Antoinette Davis
Design & Layout: Brenda Graf TABLE OF CONTENTS IMPORTANCE OF COMPUTER SKILLS TO CURRENT ACTIVITIES USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY UC DAVIS PREPARATION SATISFACTION RATINGS SARI Report #219, 10/01
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Employed Full-time Full-time Graduate Students Very important Somewhat important Not important Figure 2: Importance of Computer Skills to Current Activities
June 1999 Graduates
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the June 1999 graduates are working full-time; the remaining one-third are studying for or have recently completed a postgraduate degree or credential. Whether employed full-time or pursuing postgraduate degrees, nearly all indicate that computer skills are important to their current activities.
As one might predict, the importance of computer skills to current activities varies by career field. For June 1999 graduates, these skills are important for a large majority in all career field and are very important for nearly all computer scientists, mathematicians, and physical scientists (91%). Most accountants, bankers, and engineers also rate computer skills as very important (78% of each).
Table 1: Importance of Computer Skills by Career Field
Career Field Importance
important Not important Total
Computer/Math/Physical Scientist 91% 9% 0% 100%
Finance/Accountant/Banking 78% 22% 0% 100%
Engineer 78% 21% 1% 99%
Artist/Designer/Writer 74% 26% 0% 100%
Sales/Marketing Professional 70% 25% 5% 95%
General Business Administrator 67% 33% 0% 100%
Farm/Forest/Other Agricultural Manager 67% 22% 11% 89%
Secretary/Clerical Worker 59% 32% 9% 91%
Social Scientist/Service Professional 54% 37% 10% 90% Biological/Sciences/Health Scientist 49% 43% 9% 91% Legal Services/Law Enforcement/Military 44% 56% 0% 100%
USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AT UC DAVIS Almost all respondents used a
form of information technology during their undergraduate career at UC Davis. As shown in Figure 3, the vast majority prepared reports and papers with word processing applications; 88% did so very often and 99% at least occasionally. Most communicated with their instructors and classmates through an electronic medium (82%) often or very often and accessed the World Wide Web (WWW) for course-related information (78%). A somewhat smaller proportion produced visual displays (i.e. charts or graphs) with computer graphics applications (66%) and analyzed data (53%).
Regardless of their undergraduate major, similar proportions of UC Davis graduates prepared reports, communicated with professors and classmates electronically, and accessed the World Wide Web for course-related information. However, as shown in Table 2 and Figure 4, the frequency with which computer graphics and data analysis applications were used varies considerably across divisions; use ranges from never used by a significant proportion of Humanities Art & Cultural Studies and Social Sciences majors to frequently used by a majority of Engineering majors.
Table 2: Use of Information Technology by Division
Frequency of Task Accessed
World Wide Web
Visual Displays Analyzed Data Division Very Often - Often Occasion -ally Never Very Often - Often Occasion - ally Never Very Often-Often Occasion -ally Never Agricultural Sciences 86% 10% 3% 82% 18% 0% 68% 29% 3% Biological Sciences 75% 21% 4% 71% 22% 6% 55% 29% 16% Engineering 85% 14% 1% 94% 6% 0% 83% 11% 6% Environmental Sciences 79% 18% 3% 81% 20% 0% 66% 33% 1% Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies 68% 26% 6% 35% 31% 34% 18% 28% 54%
Human Sciences 80% 17% 3% 67% 25% 8% 60% 22% 20%
Mathematical & Physical Sciences 75% 20% 5% 71% 22% 7% 70% 27% 15%
Social Sciences 78% 18% 4% 52% 32% 16% 40% 35% 30%
All Respondents 71% 18% 11% 66% 24% 10% 51% 28% 21% Bold = significant at (p<.05)
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Very Often Often Occasionally
Figure 3: Use of Information Technology While at UC Davis % of respondents
Prepare paper or reports
Communicate with instructors/classmates Access WWW for course-related info Produce visual displays of info Analyze data
Engineering majors consistently report the greatest overall use of information technology. More of these respondents communicated with instructors and classmates electronically, produced visual displays and accessed the World Wide Web; the proportion of Agricultural Science majors who accessed the World Wide Web for course-related information is also significantly greater than the remaining majors.
A considerable proportion of Engineering majors also analyze data often or very often with computer applications: 83% compared to 70% of Math & Physical Sciences, 68% of Agricultural Sciences, 66% of Environmental Sciences, 60% of Human Sciences, 55% of Biological Sciences, 40% of Social Sciences and 18% of Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies majors.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies and Social Sciences majors; not only did these respondents use computer graphics and data analysis applications less frequently than other majors, but a significant percentage had no undergraduate experience with these applications (Table 2 and Figure 4).
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
AGSCI BIOSCI ENGIN ENVSCI HArCS HUMANSCI MPS SOCSCI
Prepared papers or reports Communicated with instructors/classmat es Accessed WWW for course-related info Produced visual displays of info Analyzed data Figure 4: Use of Information Technology While at UC Davis by Division
% using often or very often
As undergraduates, women respondents used computers to produce visual displays and to analyze data less frequently than men. Women respondents also report a lower frequency of specialized computer application usage. As shown in Figure 5, only 22% of women used these specialized applications often or very often compared to 44% of men.
The differences in usage by gender persist even when division is taken into account. The pattern of use by gender is not, however, consistent across divisions.
98% 80% 77% 63% 45% 98% 84% 79% 71%
Figure 5: Information Technology Use by Gender % using Often/Very Often
Prepare paper or reports
Communicate with instructors/classmates
Access WWW for course-related info
Produce charts, graphs
Applications Specialized to Field of Study
Fifty-three percent of respondents used a computer application specialized to their field of study at least occasionally while attending UC Davis. The comparative frequency of use by division follows the pattern established earlier in this report; it is considerably higher for Engineering majors who used specialized applications often or very often, and much lower for a majority of Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies and Social Sciences majors who used these applications rarely, if at all.
Figure 6: Use Computer Applications Specialized to Field of Study by Division % of respondents 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% SOCSCI MPS HUMANSCI HArCS ENVSCI ENGIN BIOSCI A&ES
Very Often Often Occasionally Never
UC DAVIS PREPARATION
Information Technology Preparation Alumni were asked how well their education at UC Davi s prepared them in the area of information technology. Most respondents -- 4 of 5 -- were at least adequately prepared; two-fifths felt more than adequately or very well prepared; and less than one-fifth believed their preparation was less than adequate or poor. More than adequately 29% Very well 12% Poorly 3% Less than adequately 16% Adequately 40% N = 1021
Divisionally, the mean ratings for information technology preparation range from a high of 3.74 for Engineering majors--well above the overall mean--to a low of 3.08 for Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies majors. With mean ratings of 3.56 for 3.55 respectively, Environmental Sciences and Agricultural Sciences majors also rate their preparation significantly above the overall mean.
3.18 3.28 3.28 3.29 3.56 3.55 3.08 3.74 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00 4.50 5.00 HArCS SOCSCI MPS BIOSCI HUMANSCI AGSCI ENVSCI ENGIN
Mean rating on 5-pt. scale
Figure 8: Information Technology Preparation Rating by Division Mean Rating = 3.31
Computer Skills Preparation Recent graduates were asked to rate their undergraduate
preparation in the area of computer skills. Approximately one-half rate their preparation in this area as good or excellent, over one-third rate it as fair, and 15% rate it poor. Good 36% Fair 36% Poor 15% Excellent 13% N =1014
The year 1996 marked the beginning of a small increase in the proportion of graduates who rated their preparation in computer skills as good or excellent. As shown in Figure 10, this moderate increase corresponds with a small decline in those who rated their preparation as poor. Responses to this item have changed little since 1996.
Figure 10: Computer Skills Preparation Ratings (1990 - 1999)
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
1999 1996 1993 1990
Excellent/good Fair Poor
On a four-point scale ranging from poor to excellent, the mean rating for undergraduate computer skills preparation is 2.47. This rating varies by division, with a high of 2.93 for Engineering and a low of 2.20 for Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies majors.
2.54 2.58 2.70 2.75 2.20 2.27 2.38 2.93 HArCS SOCSCI BIOSCI MPS HUMANSCI AGSCI ENVSCI ENGIN
Figure 11: Computer Skills Preparation Rating by Division Mean Rating = 2.47
Satisfaction with the Use of Technology in Instruction
Half of the June 1999 alumni respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with the use of information technology in instruction, 37% are neutral and 13% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
Figure 13 shows that Agricultural Sciences majors are most satisfied with the use of information technology in instruction and Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Humanities, Arts & Cultural Studies, and Social Sciences majors are the least satisfied.
3.52 3.56 3.58 3.50 3.40 3.23 3.20 3.87 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 MPS HArCS SOCSCI BIOSCI HUMSCI ENGIN ENVSCI AGSCI
Mean Rating on 5 pt. scale
Figure 13: Satisfaction with the Use of Information Technology In Instruction by Division
Mean rating = 3.47
5 = Very Satisfied, 4= Satisfied, 3=Neutral, 2=Dissatisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied
Satisfaction with Computer Facilities & Services Most respondents appear moderately satisfied with UC Davis’s computer facilities and services. Since 1993, the mean rating has remained fairly constant,
Table 4: Satisfaction with computer facilities & services
Figure 12: Satisfaction with Use of Information Technology in Instruction Neutral 37% Very satisfied or satisfied 50% Dissatisfied or very dissatisfied 13%